The JJs List Blog

Last Week in the Snow as a Wheelchair-User

Posted by on February 9, 2015 - 23 Comments

Many people are unaware of the difficulty wheelchair-users face when maneuvering through snow. The news covers the story from many angles. Everyone sees people shoveling their cars out, plow drivers working over-time and people climbing over snow banks.  However, people with disabilities are never shown getting stuck or stranded.

I am a wheelchair-user who lives in Evanston, Illinois. My city’s ordinance mandates that every business and residence shovel a path 36 inches wide on their sidewalks (including the curb cut, if the home or business is located at an intersection). Many cities have similar laws set in place to protect wheelchair-users, the elderly and even city workers. Unfortunately, not many people follow this law, as it is lightly enforced, thus causing wheelchair-users to freeze every aspect of their lives until the world around them thaws. The way things are done now, when the city plows clean the streets, the excess snow gets shoved into the curb cuts. I believe there has to be a better way.

The Tuesday, after my city’s most recent snowstorm, I attempted to make my way to work. My mother drove me in case I needed help navigating the snow-covered sidewalks. Unfortunately, each of my usual entrance paths (the curb cuts in the intersection) were barricaded by mounds of snow. My mother turned around and I worked from home.

The next day I tried again.  This time I saw one curb cut cleared and thought I’d have enough clearance to wheel one block to work.  I was wrong. After less than half a block I was stuck in the alley.  It took my mother and one other good sumaritan to help push and lift me back on path. Fifteen minutes later, and after much frustration, I arrived to work.

On Friday, six days removed from the last major storm and after dozens of phone calls by me and my loved ones to the office of my alderman, the sidewalks were finally cleared.

I ask that we all join together to bring a voice to a problem that has gone unnoticed my entire life. I ask that residents and businesses alike contact their landlords and aldermen and demand that the sidewalks and curb cuts of cities throughout our country are routinely cleared so that wheelchair-users everywhere can move forward after the snow falls.

About the Author:

nura thumbnail

Nura is an experienced No Boundaries Trainer who aids individuals with developmental disabilities in bettering themselves as they strive to obtain independence through full-time work.

 

23 Comments

Tabitha says:
Feb 09, 2015

Wow, a brilliant portrayal of a wheelchair user in snow. I live in England and we had the tiniest bit of snow a couple of weeks ago. Even that small amount meant I needed to be rescued as my wheelchair was sliding sideways down the carpark at work. I try to stress to people about issues such as these but people only hear what they want to hear. I’ve only been in the wheelchair since May so there is a lot I have to get used to.

David Philippart says:
Feb 09, 2015

This is a wonderful invitation for us all to think of others, and speak up to our municipalities. As a society we have put people in space, and men on the moon. We can surely figure out how to make sure that all our sidewalks and curb-cuts and intersections are passable. As some one who walks and uses public transportation, I need that, too! Thank you, Nura!

matthew lachapelle says:
Feb 10, 2015

i like what i read very well done good job

Rose Kostan-Schwartz says:
Feb 10, 2015

Nura – this was a great post. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’ve reposted to my Facebook community.

Nura Aly says:
Feb 11, 2015

Matthew – Thanks for the support!

– Nura

Nura Aly says:
Feb 11, 2015

Tabitha – It’s unfortunate how unaware people can be. It can be frustrating sometimes but if we all work together we can make a difference. Keep speaking out. As people with disabilities everywhere we need to stick together, advocating for ourselves and others. Thanks for your support!

– Nura

Nura Aly says:
Feb 11, 2015

David – Thank you for all your continued support. You are right addressing this issue benefits everyone. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get involved for change. Thanks again.

– Nura

Nura Aly says:
Feb 11, 2015

Rose – Thanks for sharing. I hope that people continue to share. It is through communication and sharing that change can happen.

– Nura

Marian Kurz says:
Feb 11, 2015

My husband is in a wheelchair and a week ago at the YMCA, which had been shoveled, it took 3 people to get us into the building. Ours is actually a transporter and is not as s heavy as a wheelchair, lots may be plowed but it’s very hard for the wheels to go through that mess…the Y was certainly not the only place. It’s a terrible problem for many folks and their caretakers.

Kathy O'Connell says:
Feb 12, 2015

Great video, so well done. It would be wonderful to get some funding for a Public Service Announcement to be made from this video. We have the exact same issue in Syracuse, NY. So few local governments think about this issue.

Ellen Garber Bronfeld says:
Feb 12, 2015

Well written and it highlights a problem that is not easily apparent to those who do not require mobility devices.
Thank you for enlightening us.
Ellen

Jake says:
Feb 12, 2015

Thanks for posting this Nura. Walking through snow and ice is not easy for cane users either. I have often times fallen down, or almost fallen down, due to people not shoveling their sidewalks. Fortunately though, a few neighbors here in my building have done a great job clearing stuff off for me. My CIF tutor has also been doing some shoveling around here.

Nura Aly says:
Feb 13, 2015

Ellen – Thanks for your kind words. I hope now you will share what you learned with others.

Nura Aly says:
Feb 13, 2015

Jake – It is great to hear that people are keeping up with the shoveling for you. Let’s all work together to continue spreading the word.

Adrian says:
Feb 13, 2015

Very well written. Though I am not in a wheelchair, I can understand the struggles that come with it. Great Blog Nura.

Nura Aly says:
Feb 13, 2015

Adrian – Thanks for all your help spreading the word!

Dan Geiger says:
Feb 13, 2015

Nura, it’s something that a lot of people don’t think about. The video is very informative and adds a lot to the blog. I know you had difficulty today and things were significantly better than they were a week and a half ago. Thank you for helping to educate people.

Nura Aly says:
Feb 13, 2015

Dan – Things in terms of shoveling and clearing curb cuts are better, you are correct. But there is still work to be done.

Reginald Bailey says:
Feb 23, 2015

People really dont understand but hopefully they will and everything works out.

Megan H says:
Feb 24, 2015

Hi Nura-
I am a reporter writing an article about a similar topic that you have spoken to in this article. Would you be willing to connect with me to be featured in the article? I can give you more details once we are in contact.

Thanks!
Megan H.

Kelly Hess says:
Mar 31, 2015

I Learned form this story is they have so many wheelchairs going through the snow and get stuck it too.

sharon says:
May 17, 2015

I read your storu about the snow and how people don’t think about people with disability. My story is different and hope I can get some guidance from you. I am going thru…not even sure the correct way to parse..I am dealing with not being able to walk. I was in a wheelchair for menu months and now able to use a 4 wheel walker for a short time before I get too tired. My family doesn’t understand my husband try but they have no idea what I go thru daily. I have no one to speak with..my family thinks I have the life…I don’t have to work..my husband takes care of me..what’s the problem? I should be happy and carefree. I have lost my job. Home dog freedom. I I need to speak with without getting “well just walk” or I try to talk to husband and I get the eye rolls and a nod. I am 47 and my illness started about 13 months ago. I was diagnosed with extreme neurothopy and couldn’t walk for 5 months. I am trying to get better but I have no support from anyone. I don’t leave the house for weeks cuz it’s easier for my husband to go alone rather then drag me out. I walk to slow when with any family member and I see their looks of aggregation in their faces. Recently I heard my mother say…she should be happy I have to work 40 hours a week. My thought was..wish I could work wish I could drive wish I could talk to people. Wish my diability was only 40 hours a week..not everyday of every hour. I just want to be able to laugh with someone about how people just don’t get it..how my family talks about what’s the people she should be walking by now…paralyzed people have learned how to walk…why can’t you? So if you can help or at least guide me of where to go to look for support…thank you!

[…] to an article on the JJ’s List blog, a woman who uses a wheelchair asks us to spread the word about the need to clear sidewalks of snow […]

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